Thursday, March 28, 2013
- by Rep. Kevin Brooks
Governor Bill Haslam Announces Tennessee Will Not Expand Medicaid Rolls
Governor Bill Haslam announced this week to a Joint Session of the Tennessee General Assembly that he will not expand the state’s Medicaid rolls pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as ObamaCare.
Instead, Haslam plans to independently pursue a “Tennessee Plan” for expanding healthcare coverage to those truly in need.
“I believe Tennessee can be a model for what true health care reform looks like; reform that will take significant steps to save the state and the nation from the unsustainable path we are now on,” Haslam said.
The central premise of the “Tennessee Plan”, which includes helping insure an additional 175,000 Tennesseans currently in need of health insurance, would save the state millions of dollars by allowing the Department of Human Services to buy policies for the uninsured from private insurers, rather than adding them to the state’s TennCare rolls.
Following the announcement, House lawmakers commended the Governor on his decision and praised Haslam for moving forward with a plan to ensure all Tennesseans have access to quality and affordable healthcare without being tied down by federal bureaucracy and mandates. They also praised the Governor for thoroughly researching the issue and approaching it in a thoughtful manner.
Haslam told lawmakers he had not received any assurances from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that the state could proceed with a "Tennessee Plan" under President Obama’s proposal and thus he would not be including the federal funding offered for expansion in his budget.
House of Representatives Working Hard To Conclude 2013 Legislative Business
The Tennessee House of Representatives is working at full steam this week as business for the 2013 legislative session in Nashville begins to wind down and important bills make their way to the House floor for final action. As progress continues to be made over the next several weeks, the legislature will begin debate on the 2013-2014 budget proposed by Governor Bill Haslam.
At the beginning of the year, the House passed new rules to help streamline the legislative process, including a new 15 bill limit and changes that reworked the House committee system to allow for more efficient and effective government. Through these changes, the legislature has seen the lowest total bill filings in nearly thirty years. In 1987, there were 1,186 pieces of legislation filed. This year, 1,339 House bills were filed.
As the remaining House committees still open prepare to conclude for the year, the General Assembly is working to adjourn all legislative business over the next month.
Legislation Providing Hall Income Tax Relief for Senior Citizens Passes Finance Subcommittee
More senior citizens will qualify for Hall income tax relief under legislation approved by the House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee this week. House Bill 192 is part of Governor Bill Haslam’s legislative package to provide tax relief to citizens across the state. The package also includes House Bill 193 to reduce the state sales tax on food from 5.25% to a flat 5 percent rate.
The Hall tax is imposed on income derived from interest on bonds, notes, and stock dividends. Since enactment of the Hall tax in 1929, the use of investment savings has grown as a primary source of retirement income. As such, the legislation approved this week raises the Hall income tax exemption level for citizens age 65 and older from $26,200 to $33,000 for single filers and from $37,000 to $59,000 for joint filers.
The action by the Subcommittee builds on Hall tax relief efforts taken in 2011 which raised the exemption level for senior citizens from $16,200 to $26,200 for single filers and from $27,000 to $37,000 for joint filers.
In addition to the Hall tax and food tax relief bills, the Governor’s budget provides funds to raise the inheritance tax exemption level from $1.25 million to $2 million as authorized by Public Chapter 1057, passed by the General Assembly last year. Finally, the budget proposal provides tax relief for low income seniors, veterans, and the disabled by fully funding the growth of the property tax freeze program enacted in 2007.
Rep. Kevin Brooks serves the 24th Legislative District in Cleveland, TN and Bradley County. Kevin and his wife, Kim are actively involved in their community and local schools with their two children, Zach who is attending Lee University and Elizabeth who attends Cleveland High.